What is the geomagnetic storm US is warning of and how will it affect Peru? | Perusat-1 | Solar Storm | the world

The warning came from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center, where several strong solar flares cause disturbances in the Earth’s magnetic field lasting hours to days.

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These flashes are associated with large sunspots that reach 16 times the Earth’s diameter (about 200 thousand km). In this sense, they are considered an unusual event and are reported at alert level G4 (serious or severe).

“We have a very, very rare event in front of us,” SWPC coordinator Shawn Dahl said during a news conference. “According to the data collected, we know that the solar wind is moving directly toward Earth at 800 kilometers per second.

This is a warning issued by the United States. It has been described as an “extraordinary phenomenon”. (Photo: noaa.gov)

The report indicates that this solar storm will continue till the 12th this Sunday and even into the first days of next week.

Dahl noted that moderate to very strong eruptions have occurred, and “at least five of these eruptions are associated with mass ejections from the solar corona that appear toward Earth.”

At the top left of the image, the impressive sunspot AR3664 stands out, causing concern.  (Photo: Peruvian Space Agency)

At the top left of the image, the impressive sunspot AR3664 stands out, causing concern. (Photo: Peruvian Space Agency)

What is this rare event?

One of the keys is the number of spots that appear on the Sun, a continuously active star. “Depending on how many sunspots we can see, we say the sun is more or less active,” points out Ray Hidalgo, professor at the Faculty of Physical Sciences at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos.

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According to Hidalgo, these points have been studied for centuries and have become an indicator, as American officials warned. “Maybe we’re entering maximum solar activity, which means 2024 is the period of maximum solar activity, which means more sunspots, more active regions, the probability of more things happening on the sun,” he said. Trade.

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This basically translates into three phenomena: solar flares, particle radiation, and coronal mass ejections, or CMEs. It is this last event that is the reason for the current warning. At the level of the Sun it is called a solar storm, but on Earth it is called a geomagnetic storm.

Hidalgo points out that this CME will continue to occur, but what is new is that it is now directed toward Earth. “They’re not always aimed at our planet, but it’s especially aimed at Earth, and that’s why the impacts are so great,” he notes. Another characteristic is that the CME takes longer to move, but transports a larger amount of solar particles.


Evento Carrington

The geomagnetic storm of 1859 is known as such because an astronomer named Richard Carrington first observed it. It is considered the most powerful solar storm in history. According to National Geographic, LThe telegraph network across Europe and America was down for 14 hours. Also, northern lights appeared in different parts of the world.

Evento Carrington

In the face of this phenomenon, the doctor explains in Geoscience and Applications, Earth has two layers of protection. One is the atmosphere and the other is the magnetosphere or magnetic field, which exists in space and moderates the impact of particles.

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“A CME is a solar wind, just very concentrated. So what’s happening here is this magnetic field exerts a force on the particles. [solares]”Some go north, some go south and start spiraling like a funnel,” he explains.

This phenomenon produces the well-known auroras, which can only be seen at high latitudes. Countries like Peru are located on the equator and cannot see these phenomena.

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Effects on Earth

Yes, geomagnetic storms affect the Earth. According to an alert issued by the SWPC, the last time a similar incident occurred was during the Halloween celebration in October 2003. It caused power outages in Sweden and damaged transformers in South Africa.

The effect on people ends indirectly. Marco Milla, director of the Radio Astronomy Institute of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP), said the event does not mean people should stay in their homes “because there is something that naturally protects us in the layers” of the top of the atmosphere.

However, failures can occur in electric power networks, communication systems, satellite Internet, or the GPS positioning system that allows us to get around in airplanes, cars, or simply walk around using a smartphone.

Milla points out Trade The current challenge for researchers is to have the ability to predict these events “to take steps to mitigate the potential consequences of these events and how they will affect us as we become increasingly dependent on these technologies”.

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Is PeruSAT-1 in danger?

A direct effect of a geomagnetic storm is outside the atmosphere.

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Consulted by this newspaper, a researcher at the Moquegua Astronomical Observatory (National Commission for Aerospace Research and Development – Conida) said the current storm could affect space missions and satellite systems, including the Peruvian satellite.

“Yes, indeed, in this way it can affect communications, space missions, satellites. That’s why all the space agencies are keeping a close eye on the Sun: what’s going on, if its activity is increasing, that’s all. Since we are at the maximum level, it requires full attention. Now there are many satellites depending on this, so everything has to be monitored. Our satellite is in space,” highlights the expert, referring to PerúSAT-1. In this case, he mentioned that the Center for National Operations of Satellite Imagery (CNOIS) is the agency that operates the Peru satellite and it is alert to take appropriate measures.

PerúSAT-1 is Peru's Earth observation satellite.  It was launched in 2016.  (Photo: Andina)

PerúSAT-1 is Peru’s Earth observation satellite. It was launched in 2016. (Photo: Andina)

And what could happen?

In the case of space missions, Ray Hidalgo notes that if astronauts don’t take shelter, “it’s the same effect as exposure to a nuclear explosion, for example.” There is a special room to protect them. And, in the case of satellites, he pointed out, “Precautions commonly taken include turning off equipment or putting it at minimum power to avoid overloads and equipment degradation.”

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Even so, a geomagnetic storm is a phenomenon that can be observed from Earth, but with great care.

For Eric Mesa, the key is eye protection. He points out that you can spot sunspots using binoculars with special filters, but don’t look directly at the sun because it can affect vision. The public and researchers can find information about this event and others on the Conida Space Weather website. .

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